The Battling Bastards of Bataan
No Mama – No Papa – No Uncle Sam
Seventy-two years ago on April 9, 1942, General Wainwright surrendered his forces to the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula (Philippines) and thus began the Bataan Death March.
General Wainwright had no choice but to surrender. His troops were starving, out of ammunition, and had exhausted their medical supplies. For just over three months, the U.S. forces had fought valiantly against wave after wave of Japanese attacks. But, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy did not have the resources to rescue, relieve, or supply the beleaguered soldiers. They were cut-off and alone. It is the only time the U.S. Army has ever surrendered. On September 2, 1945, General Wainwright stood with General MacArthur at the Japanese surrender ceremony on the decks of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
The brave soldiers that survived the death march spent the entire war in Japanese prison camps. Because a high percentage of these troops were New Mexicans is the reason why this annual memorial ceremony is so important in the state. At the ceremony there were three Bataan survivors; Ralph Rodriguez (97 years), Bill Overmier (94 years) and Rosenaldo Lavato (94 years). There were eight survivors at last year’s ceremony.